Rail delay compensation – Light at the end of the tunnel?

The Southern Railways debacle has caused misery to its many passengers. But whilst passengers are entitled to refunds for tickets purchased and not used, or for services delayed due to a rail company’s fault, are they missing out on compensation for delays as well as other issues?

All rail companies are signed up to National Conditions of Travel which states that the amount of compensation offered by train companies in their Passenger’s Charter varies between them. However, as a minimum, if you arrive more than 60 minutes late at your destination station you will be entitled to compensation.

Currently passengers can claim if they have been delayed for 30 minutes or longer. The first passengers able to use the Delay Repay 15 were those on Southern Rail, owned by Govia Thameslink Rail, from 11 December 2016. It is to be rolled out to the rest of GTR’s services before being extended across the country.

Are we complaining and gaining redress when we should?
In 2013 Transport Focus found that almost nine in 10 of passengers eligible for compensation for delays, did not claim. In 2016 it spoke to over 7000 passengers and found that the number claiming compensation has increased to 35 per cent in 2016. The research shows how few people are claiming what they are owed.

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer champion and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! concurs, saying that so few people know their rights even though rail companies should be doing as much as possible to inform passengers that they can claim. If so few people claim for a basic entitlement then it is little wonder that they don’t claim in other circumstances. She says that a strict interpretation of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (Rail companies were covered from 1 October 2016) could mean that customers could claim for higher percentages of the ticket price than companies currently offer and also for shorter delays.

Furthermore, under this Act, services must be carried out with reasonable skill and care and she encourages customers to claim for redress to which they are entitled and looks forward to the first case to be heard in the Small Claims Court! “It is still the large majority of people who don’t claim for delays never mind poor service”, she says, “We have yet to really see whether consumers will really start challenging companies and if they in turn will hold out on compensating travellers if, for example, they do not have accessible toilets in working order or they are having to stand when a company has put on fewer carriages than normal”.

What do the rail companies say?
When given examples of possible claims, a spokesperson for Southern Railways said “We would investigate any claim brought under the Consumer Rights Act thoroughly and take any action as necessary”

A Virgin Trains spokesperson said: “We are fully compliant with the requirements of the Consumer Rights Act.”

A spokesperson for Scotrail said “We judge each complaint on its merits.  For example, if someone was complaining about lack of carriages, we would need to consider if the train had fewer carriages that normal, or whether it ran with the booked or maximum number of coaches permitted on that route. We also consider whether there was advertised special events taking place, and whether we had advised customers in advance that trains were likely to be busier”.

GWR said “Liability under CRA legislation depends on the train operator not exercising “reasonable care and skill” in providing a service/product (section 49), and therefore only covers issues that are under our control. However, we always aim to reasonably consider (and regularly pay) compensation and refund requests where we may not be strictly liable in law. For example, (and something we offered before the CRA came into effect) if you have reserved a seat (which is free) and we are unable to provide one.

What do customers say?
Travellers are taking to social media to voice their concerns:

There are claims that companies are misleading customers

Delay on Delay Repay?
An investigation by BBC Radio 4 You and Yours found that many people are experiencing delays in receiving their payments. Transpennine Express told the programme that their delays are due to a high volume of correspondence and that they’re working on the problem. Northern Rail apologised for the backlog and said they were working to understand and resolve the issues. Arriva Trains Wales said that they’ve recruited extra staff to help deal with the backlog – which they say was due to an increase in compensation requests in December 2016.

What do you need to know if you want to complain?
Dewdney offers this advice for those wanting to complain:

  1. From 1 October 2016 rail is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which gives you more rights few know about.
  2. Passengers are entitled to have their compensation paid within 14 days, issued by the same method the passenger used to pay for the ticket.
  3. Keep your tickets as evidence and take a copy if you have to post them.
  4. Make a note of your journey: Date, time, where travelling from/to and how long you’ve been delayed at the time before you forget!
  5. Make a note of the reason given for the delay.
  6. Check how long you have to claim, it is usually up to 28 days.
  7. Passengers can claim for any length of delay. If you suffer repeated delays of less than half an hour or overcrowding due to an unexpected lack of carriages, you might get money back if you take your case to court. Currently, no compensation is offered.
  8. Where a service has not been provided with reasonable skill and care, passengers will now have a right to a refund of up to the full ticket price.
  9. Put your complaint (unless web based delay/cancellation refund) in writing so that you have a record.
  10. You don’t need a third party company to claim for you, just like claiming for delayed airline flights. Instead, do it yourself and get 100% of the refund.
  11. If the issue was within the company’s control, be objective, succinct and clear in outlining the issue that occurred.
  12. Make it clear what you want to happen and what you will do if you are not satisfied with the response (e.g. take it further through Transport Focus [2] or if inside London, London Travel Watch  or Small Claims Court.
  13. If not satisfied with the response, write to the CEO using contact details from the CEOemail.com website. The matter will then be escalated and taken seriously.
  14. It may also be possible to claim from your credit card company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act for non delivery of services.

Email addresses for CEOs of UK railway companies with links to Delay Repay where applicable.

Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

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Full steam ahead to a better consumer deal for Rail passengers

It’s good news for rail passengers today, as their rights are boosted by the Consumer Rights Act, giving a much better deal on compensation for delays, cancellations and overcrowding.

When the Consumer Rights Act 2015 was implemented on 1st October last year, Sea, Rail and Air were made exempt from its conditions.

In April last year the Government back-stepped and decided that from October 1st 2016 that Ferries and Airlines would also be included but had delayed Rail until 2017. However, following the Which? campaign to “Make Rail Refunds Easier”, Rail will now be covered from the 1st October 2016.

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Key new rights for rail travel

  • Passengers are entitled to have their compensation paid within 14 days.
  • Compensation must be issued by the same method the passenger paid with, rather than with vouchers that some train companies currently use.
  • Passengers are entitled to payment for additional consequential losses, such as missed connections.
  • Passengers can claim for any length of delay. If you suffer repeated delays of less than half an hour or overcrowding due to an unexpected lack of carriages, you might get money back if you take your case to court. Currently, no compensation is offered.
  • Where a service has not been provided with reasonable skill and care, passengers will now have a right to a refund of up to the full ticket price.

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer rights blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!  says that it will be interesting to see how the companies deal with the changes. “Many of us might say that the companies will try and get out of compensating customers and hope that people won’t know their new legal rights! We need to ensure that people are aware of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and that they use it when they receive poor service and/or delays.”

Passengers should quote the Act, describe the journey times and length of delay and contact the relevant train company. Dewdney will be watching closely to see if train companies compensate for overcrowding. She believes that the companies will not compensate and is watching out for the first person to take legal action through the Small Claims Court.

3 Simple Steps to Gain Compensation for Train Delays – more information on how to claim for delays.

Tips on complaining effectively

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! Advice, guidance, information, stories, templates and your rights!

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How to Beat a Post Office Trick

Time for a story. Who shall we pick on this time? Let’s have a go at the Post Office and Royal Mail two different businesses in fact. The Post Office offers the Royal Mail services.

The parcel
Some time ago I helped someone with their Royal Mail problem. She had bought a bottle of perfume from a private seller on Ebay. The contents turned out to be fake. The seller agreed a full refund including postage. Not surprised given the considerable trouble she could have got into had Sarah simply reported her to certain authorities….

What's in your parcel?
What’s in your parcel?

Now, Royal Mail lost the item. No surprise there then. So, Sarah wrote to the Royal Mail and explained what had happened. Someone from the Royal Mail wrote back and said that she wouldn’t be getting a refund because she had posted a prohibited item. You can find a list of prohibited items here. Call me cynical but apart from some obvious stuff this list includes other toiletries which you may well send as gifts, so check this list before you post liquid gifts. After shaves, perfumes and nail varnishes are allowed but there are restrictions on size etc. Sarah told me that no-one in Royal Mail had asked her what was in the parcel and no reference was made to what wasn’t allowed. How many of you knew you can’t send certain after shave or nail varnish in the post? There is no information on the walls or in leaflets regarding this in the Post Office, so I think this was pretty unfair. I believe that the Post Office has a duty of care to ensure that the public knows Royal Mail policies. You aren’t allowed to send “filth” (that could be very subjective!) and no sending of human or animal remains about the UK either please. Or ice. Anyone ever sent ice? Why should anyone have to check the Internet before they post anything? How about people who don’t have the Internet? So I wrote Sarah’s letter for her, telling them exactly that and that I expected a full refund due to their failing to undertake reasonable skill and care in ensuring the public knew their rules. Matthew at Royal Mail agreed and Sarah got her full refund. Not that I got a thank you. Sarah is no longer my friend.

Other Royal Mail Complaints
Generally of course, it is letters and parcels that are acceptable to Royal Mail that go missing. If you need to complain the contact details are here. The things that are covered here and the levels of compensation here. What problems have you had with the Royal Mail (other than it being sold off too cheaply of course).